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Setting (and Sticking to!) A Holiday Budget

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Make sure to include decorative items in your budget too!

Tis the season for bulging bank accounts.  My husband and I have been carefully eyeing our finances for a few months now, and we finally implemented an official budget this month.  Do you know how hard it is to start a budget in December?  But I figure if we can do it this month, the rest of the year should be a breeze!

We broke down all the various household categories – groceries, car/gas, entertainment, clothes, baby, and more.  We also created a “gifts” budget, that we’ll use all year long for things like birthdays and holidays.  But being so close to Christmas, we opted to extend our gift budget this month, making it quite a bit larger than most other months.

Now that I’m tracking every purchase, I find that I’m much more careful about what I’m spending.  Here’s how we’re sticking to our budget…

1.  Put it on paper.  Well, 2012’s version of paper – an Excel spreadsheet.  The budget is updated every night, and I check it every morning.  By looking at it every day, there is no pretending or forgetting.  I’m much more aware of what we’re spending!

2.  Make a list.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays when you have a lot of friends and family to shop for.  I like to start each season by listing who I’m buying for, and jotting down ideas next to the names.

3.  Check it twice.  Once the list and ideas are formed, go back down the list again, setting a target price point for each gift or each person.  Tally up the total at the end, and make sure it’s within your set budget!  If not, go back and reevaluate where you can make some cuts.

4.  Choose wisely.  We’re not really at the stage where Cullen is getting BIG gifts yet, but I know it will be here sooner than later.  I think it helps to choose the big ticket items first.  If you are giving your family an Xbox 360 this year, that should be the first item accounted for in the budget.  All the smaller items can really add up fast, so they should be chosen after big items are taken care of.  Also, something like an Xbox 360 can help save in other ways – you can use Netflix for movie streaming and cut down on cable costs.  Or you can also use the fitness games to save on a gym membership!

How are you budgeting this year? 

Thanks to Xbox for sponsoring this campaign. Visit xbox.com to learn more. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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